News Column

Ian's happy to put the accent on America ; Five minutes with... Ian Hart

September 21, 2013


Ian Hart, 48, a stage and screen regular for more than 20 years, has appeared in Backbeat, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and Dirt. The actor talks to Roger Crow about his new series Bates Motel, work on Thandie Newton's drama Rogue, and mastering American accents Tell us about Bates Motel Basically, it's a bit like Twin Peaks. It's set in a little town where the Bates family set up shop having run away from whatever previous dilemma they encountered. So they've bought this hotel, and the town they stay in is also full of strange characters. Describe your character, Will Decody I'm an ex- teacher, divorced and I come away with my daughter. Everyone seems to have a run away from something. So every time you meet a new character there is always a, Oh, why is he here?. I run a shop which sells curiosities and bits and pieces, and in the back I do taxidermy. That's a link with Norman, because obviously in the history of Psycho you wonder how he learned to skin people and put them back together again.

So Norman starts being a friend of my daughter; they are at school together and she takes a shine to him.

My daughter's got this disease where she is on an oxygen machine, carrying around this big oxygen tank; she is another strange person who is broken and fragile.

One day, I teach Norman how to be a taxidermist when his dog gets killed; I stuff his dog for him.

With Hitchcock (the recent film about Psycho), and now Bates Motel, why is the world still obsessed with Norman Bates after 53 years? Well it's been a few years, but who would've thought they'd be keep making The Hills Have Eyes, and that Leatherface character from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Freddie Krueger? I think American Gothic, the TV show, has influences or references, whatever you want to call it. They make an iconic status out of the bogeyman. Basically Hollywood loves a good oedipal drama I was just watching a documentary on BBC Two about The Greeks and drama, and you start to see themes and perspectives within Greek drama written 600 years before Christ... it's still being played out.

Tell us about your other new series, Rogue It's a Thandie Newton tragedy kind of thing. It's a thriller set in Oakland, California, in which I play a detective who's her handler. Whenever somebody goes undercover, they have to have somebody who is a contact point for them to feed information. They are their protector, adviser, their link to the police while they're undercover.

My character was a bit of a sleazy cop who took drugs, so he wasn't the best person to handle his responsibilities, and that's what went wrong.

Have there been big changes between series? They've started without me and about 70% of the original cast. Once that narrative had gone through they thought, We can't repeat that narrative, so they just took the main character, which is Thandie Newton, and she goes off and has a new adventure. What's next for you? I'm doing My Mad Fat Diary again in London. I've got a tiny part in a film I might be doing, but I haven't got the contract through yet. I've got another TV show here in the States, probably a couple of guest episodes, but again, I'm waiting for that to come through the post.

Is it tricky juggling accents as you go from show to show? In Bates Motel I play a guy who's from Cheshire.

I found it was awkward being with a load of Americans and me being the odd man out. Oddly enough it's easier to be an American with Americans, because you're constantly hearing the same sounds back at you. When you're in that position, you've got nothing to bounce it off. I found that a pain.

If you listen to most English actors, they sound like they're from the East Coast, from Boston, New York, Baltimore, or Chicago because those are the dialects because there's a soft R there; we don't have a hard R. But on the West Coast it's different.

If you look at Friends, the brother and sister - Courteney Cox and David Schwimmer; Courteney's from Alabama or somewhere, and he's from New York, and you can hear it. And it ran for 10 years! No-one batted an eye lid! They don't listen the same way we do. ? Bates Motel continues on Thursday at 9pm on Universal Channel.

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